The first church on this site of Bern Minster probably was a small chapel built during the founding of Bern (1191). By the 15th century, Bern had expanded and become a major city-state north of the Alps. To celebrate their growing power and wealth, the construction of new church began in 1421.
During the first phase, Matthäus Ensinger, a foreman from Ulm, was in charge of the project. The construction took over 150 years, and generations of foremen, sculptors and stonemasons worked on the important monument. It was hard work and there were strict rules: the main goal of late Gothic architecture was to have a building of predetermined dimension and with as much light as possible. The craftsmen achieved an impressive space by connecting the entire inside space, using a special building technique and carefully proportioning the windows.
In the 16th century, the third stage of the build came to an end. The spire was only 50 metres high, so the Minster looked quite different among the houses of the Old City. Construction had to stop because the ground was not stable and there were some financial problems. Later on, the impressive spire was built in the Gothic style and reached its final height. Switzerland’s largest late medieval church was completed in 1893. It was made almost completely out of Bernese sandstone, with the exception of the top part of the spire.
The most famous feature of the Bernese Minster is the exceptional main portal. Erhart Küng, a sculptor and foreman from Westphalia, made the sandstone masterpiece that depicts the Last Judgement. There are 294 sculptures: prophets, angels with trumpets, Jesus Christ as Judge of the Nations, Lady Justice (added after the Reformation), martyrs and damned souls showed the believers what the day of the Last Judgement would look like.
You can visit the Minster to enjoy the unique ambiance inside the building, listen to the sound of the organs, attend a protestant service, look at the medieval architecture or enjoy the view from the platform at the top of the spire – the church and the spire of the Minster are open daily, year-round. Make sure you check the official opening hours.References:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.